The Mathematics of Search & the Need for Creativity

Danny Sullivan writes Search Marketing Isn't Just Math & Machines, which is in reaction to some chatter that the only way to work in search is to work it mathematically.

When I was younger I was good at math, but have not practiced it much in years and still do fine. From what I have see creativity is a much larger part of the battle.

Some people say you need to work at Google if you are in search. Like Danny, I totally disagree with that statement. All you really need to know, is what Google wants.

An example:

Google wanted to push their Google Sitemaps program. Recently a few people posted code about how to create one in various languages, or with various content management systems. Google quickly created a page linking to those resources.

If one acted quick enough they could have got a link from Google. For those who did not act quick enough, they can try to buy ads on the pages Google linked at, or create Google SiteMap pages that interface with other CMS's or languages. Even if you did not know the language I am guessing that a programmer could be hired for a few hundred dollars. A low one time fee for a link from Google.

An even better example:

Google recently updated their page about SEO and linked out to this news article about fraudulent SEO companies.

Currently there are Toyota ads on that content. I am betting that I could call them and see if it was possible to run an ad on that page, paying a premium much greater than what Toyota pays because there is much greater value for me than Toyota for an ad on that page.

What better place for me to run an ad like:

Don't get ripped off by a shady SEO firm. Buy the best selling SEO Book and learn how to market your site in Google ethically. Increase your site rankings and traffic today.

I perhaps would feel a bit guilty / sleezy for running the ethics line (as most people using the term ethics in the SEO field do not use it in an honest manner), but Google sets up that ad and that marketing copy for me.

As a matter of fact, I just called that newspaper to see if I could buy an ad. First I got a disconnected number that offered me no assistance, then I tried another number and got another person who transfered me through to another person, who was not at their desk, so I got to leave a message.

Sloppy ad sales compared to AdWords.

The exact reason Google does well is that they make it easy and automated to buy targeted ads. Many of the newspaper companies would make significantly greater profits if they automated a portion of their ad sales, and allowed more people to compete for their ad inventory (the same way partnerships with AdSense do).

CNN has over 200,000 links from DMOZ. Imagine what links on some of those pages are worth to webmasters and think of how little they make from sloppy untargeted ad sales. That is why link brokers can partner with so many newspaper sites, because the newspapers are too sloppy at ad sales and behind on technology to get good value out of their ad space without a middleman doing their marketing for them.

Andrew Goodman recently stated:

I find it hard to fret much about Google dependency at this stage when General Motors is spending $3.3 billion a year on offline ads. That’s about the same as Google’s total revenues from all advertisers for 2004!

So if Google is making that big of a wave with that little income it makes sense that they are on to something with their ad targeting, and that there is much room for growth with Google.

At the end of the day good SEO and PPC marketing are just ad buys. When you think of how large the web is there are many more opportunities away from Google than in it. Most ad buyers and sellers are lazy, working with outdated technologies, or are not creative.

Published: June 14, 2005 by Aaron Wall in seo tips


June 15, 2005 - 4:02pm

Before you run that ad in place of Toyota, you'd maybe be better revising your description tag in SEW forums ;)

September 24, 2008 - 10:06pm

Hi Aaron,

I think analytical thinking is important in SEO, too (understanding how to invest your resources in the most effective way), but I've been thinking for a while that the main factor that makes an SEO successful is creativity/creative problem solving. As in "How do I get links to this site?" (= problem) ---> you need a creative idea (and the more creative you are the more likely you are to come up with a good idea..though of course it takes analytical thinking an knowledge of SEO to filter out the ideas that are good).

Even if SEO ever changes to being a lot about usage data, you'll have to find creative ways to make people stay longer on your site, etc...

However, I'm still more of a newbie and just found this post you wrote over 3 years ago. So I'm just curious, if you still feel like creativity is key (now over 3 years after writing this)?

PS: I mean except for drive, passion and curiosity, of course!;)

September 25, 2008 - 12:37am

Of course creativity is important...and will only grow in importance as markets saturate and competition heats up.

September 25, 2008 - 2:00pm

hehe thanks for the reply, I was just wondering if your opinion was still the same on this topic after all those years (as this post is kind of old)

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